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hundreds of years. Hence my own desire to go back to the ritual of the forgetting tree.

Recently, my work as a poet has been deeply invested in questions of place and landscape, what they mean and how they mean. The forgetting tree is an important moment for me because it’s not a moment when the landscape changes. Rather, it’s a moment when the meaning of the landscape changes. The tree, which is usually a silk cotton tree, remains a silk cotton tree, but new meaning has been added to it. And inside that meaning is a catastrophe meted out to a particular group of men and women. Of course, so many things are happening in conjunction with one another, because ‘race’ as we understand it now is just being invented. The word race existed before, as a category of nation, or particularly as a category of language speakers. But only now is it being used in its crudest sense and the sense in which we still use it today, as acategoryofthehuman.Likethesilkcottontree, race too is acquiring a new meaning. So the very moment that a particular group of people is being racialised is the exact moment that the meaning of the landscape around them is changing, in order to keep them oppressed. I don’t think I need to spell out the disasters that unspool from this moment, but one thing is worth underlining: it is obviously easier to enact profound changes in a landscape if you first change the meaning of the landscape. Before the change is physical, it is always epistemic. So, the epistemology of place and land: these are my concerns as a poet, and poems on this topic were most recently published in my collection In Nearby Bushes.

YR: I’m intrigued by the title of In Nearby Bushes. In some of your prose essays from Writing Down the Vision, hinterland forests strike me as places of refuge. But in these poems, the bushes are a violent place. Could you tell me more about what drew you to the setting?


KM: It is a place of mystery and danger. And the danger goes two ways: it is physical danger, as it’s a place of violence. But sometimes that danger is the danger of the self – it’s the danger of discovering something about yourself. To go into the bushes is to enter a dangerous, primordial place where something might be discovered. I think for the writer, that’s so alluring – why not travel into a place to which we never attach language?

When you come from a place like the Caribbean, where landscape is always so profoundly marked and signified in all kinds of ways, it feels like no matter how much you write about the land and its dangers, you can never bring enough nuance to it, or untangle some of those complexities. I think that’s why it’s an area I keep coming back to.

YR: I found your essay The White Women and the Language of Bees very thought-provoking. It asks questions of me, as a white woman reading it. But the way it opens out at the end, towards future writing by white women in the Caribbean, strikes me as very gracious. I’d like to ask you about this part of the essay:

“This evening, perhaps, the white women will find themselves sitting on rocks and looking out to the great expanse that is the Caribbean Sea. There are so many things in that sea like ships and their sad cargos, and the dying dolphins and the dying turtles and the dying sharks and all this damned dying that make the white women and the black men want to bawl together.”

Is theirs a shared historical and environmental grief? Or do they weep for different reasons?

KM: In that moment, it is absolutely shared. The graciousness that I’m trying to evoke is that we occupy that space, the Caribbean, together. But we obviously have very different relationships to the land. And those are historical relationships that are racialised in different ways.

Last year, I was following a controversy that erupted in Jamaica. If you weren’t Jamaican, you wouldn’t immediately read between the lines what was happening. In the parish of Falmouth, there was a

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